Jakarta attacks: Starbucks worker Aldi Tardiansyah escaped a suicide bomber

Aldi Tardiansyah freed himself from the grasp of a suicide bomber. Photo: Ikhwan Yanuar Starbucks in central Jakarta. Photo: Supplied


Traffic police officer Suhadi and his pregnant wife, Sri Rejeki. Photo: Ikhtan Yanuar

Jakarta attacks: Explosions, gunfire near Sarinah shopping mall

Jakarta: Aldi Tardiansyah was just two weeks into his first ever job as a security guard at Starbucks in central Jakarta when a man grabbed his left arm last week.

Startled, the 17-year-old high school graduate saw the man gesture to his stomach. Wrapped around his waist was a bomb.

“I was patrolling inside the cafe. Soon after a man tried to grab me. When he showed me I knew it,” Aldi recounts from his home in Bogor outside Jakarta.

Aldi screamed “Bomb!” and pulled away. The man pushed the button. Aldi was thrown several metres, his left ear damaged in the blast. Pieces of shattered glass struck his thigh, throat and stomach.

His would-be assassin was later revealed to be 25-year-old Ahmad Muhazan bin Saron, 25, one of the four terrorists linked to Islamic State who carried out the deadly attacks in Jakarta on January 14. Saron only managed to blow himself up.

“I feel terrified because if I hadn’t released myself I could have died,” Aldi says. Later that day three other terrorists and three civilians were also killed.

For the first three days after the attack, Aldi fainted every day. He was discharged on Monday but still wears the hospital bracelet.

His sleep is fractured, but he says he doesn’t dream. Aldi is an orphan. He lives with his grandmother, Atik Sarmini, who weeps silently by the bedroom doorframe of her tiny, airless house, and worries about the medical bills.

Dr Musyafak, the head of Jakarta Police medical and health division, assures her the government will take care of the bills.

Ms Sarmini hears Aldi crying in his sleep: “Oh my God, Oh my God”. “He jumps every time the door bangs,” she says.

Aldi replays the event in his mind. It was 10.40am on a Thursday: the Starbucks cafe at the base of the Skyline building was buzzing as usual.

Oddly Thamrin road outside the cafe – normally one of Jakarta’s most congested thoroughfares – was quieter than usual. Now Aldi is glad about that. If it was busier more could have been killed.

When the bomb went off the cafe filled with smoke and screams. Aldi struggled up and dragged three bodies out of the cafe.

“I’m not the only who wanted to be saved,” he says. Aldi insists he is not afraid and wants to return to his job at Starbucks. He is grateful for the #KamiTidakTakut (We are not afraid) social media campaign that sprung up after the attacks.

“It means we are not afraid of terrorists,” he says.

It was only after viewing the CCTV footage later, that traffic police officer Suhadi realised how imperilled his life had been. The gunmen were thirty metres away from him. He had clearly been in their sights.

At the time Mr Suhadi had been trying to call an ambulance while simultaneously trying to stop traffic heading towards the Sarinah shopping mall.

“They were not afraid, they even tried to come closer to the site,” he marvelled. “If I was not a police officer I would stay away. These people were just looking, like it was a performance.”

A man, who Mr Suhadi now believes was the eighth victim of the attacks, Rais Karna, warned him that there were many victims at Starbucks.

Mr Suhadi was facing the famous Hotel Indonesia roundabout.

He saw a colleague duck and instinctively copied him. The bullet hit Mr Karna. “Because of the gunshot I tried to run away and tell people to disperse,” Mr Suhadi said.

“I felt heat on my back and thought I might have been shot but I just kept running,” Suhadi said.

People were shouting: “There is blood on your back!” The bullet had lodged in his side.

Eventually a motorcyclist took Mr Suhadi to hospital. He was paranoid the terrorists were continuing to chase him, even ordering a nurse to hide his uniform. It was only when officers from the forensic division arrived that Mr Suhadi felt safe.

Mr Suhadi’s wife, Sri Rejeki, is due to give birth next month. The family understand the risks of his job, Mr Suhadi says.

“I am not afraid. I earn a living from doing this job, my happiness comes from this job. It is just a risk of doing this job.”

Of the 28 wounded in the attacks, nine are still in hospital. One – Bangkok Bank employee Rais Karna – died of gunshot wounds to his head on Saturday night. He was in a coma when admitted to hospital after Thursday’s attacks and never recovered.

Dr Musyafak believes the loss of life could have been greater were it not for a carefully orchestrated police strategy to send the victims to eight different hospitals.

“Someone’s life and death is the hands of God but if they had been in one hospital medical staff would have had too much work to do,” Dr Musyafak said.

“Treat them, talk to the media, deal with the families … If you take them to different hospitals you have more time to treat them better.”

Follow Jewel Topsfield on Facebook

Follow FairfaxForeign on Twitter

Follow FairfaxForeign on Facebook